Wednesday, April 25, 2018

4.25.18 Heroes of the Day: Art Bell and Don Bustany

Bee-otch of the Day honors are awarded Monday through Thursday, Bee-otch of the Week is awarded Friday on


Name: Art Bell
Age: was 72
Occupation: overnight radio show host

Name: Don Bustany
Age: was 89
Occupation: co-creator of American Top 40

Last Seen: the Great Beyond
Awarded For: making radio a better place


These past few weeks have been sad for radio.

Two weeks ago Friday - on the 13th nonetheless - we were shocked when it was announced that Art Bell, the legendary overnight talk radio host known for his vivid discussions about UFOs, ghosts, government conspiracies and the like died at his home in Pahrump, NV at the age of 72. Bell, a lifelong smoker, was diagnosed with COPD a few years back.

Born into a military family, Bell developed a love of radio at a young age, even obtaining his ham radio license as a kid. While serving in Japan in the 1960s, he had his own pirate radio station, playing anti-war tunes like "Military Son" and "Eve of Destruction". Eventually, he ended up working in Las Vegas and KDWN radio, where he created his trademark radio show Coast to Coast AM in the early 80s. Some years later, he started self-syndicating the show, which eventually took off like a rocket. C2CAM was carried on 50 KW blowtorches in big metropolises to small town stations whose night power had less wattage than a lightbulb. He was the biggest talk talent on overnight radio and at times almost had ratings as high as Howard Stern or even Rush Limbaugh.

Art was also known for making as many retirements and comebacks as Frank Sinatra or even Cher. However, his first retirement was due to the fact that his then-teenage son, Art IV was kidnapped and raped by a male schoolteacher who had HIV. The teacher was sentenced to 10-25 years in prison. Art, who sold the show to Clear Channel in the late 1990s was always getting huge offers to come back after his replacement hosts all failed and the show was losing affiliates. He finally revealed the truth to his many retirements and comebacks when he started doing a show for SiriusXM a few years ago. A lot of it was due to how Clear Channel was treating him during his son's trauma.

After that and the death of his third wife Ramona from a severe asthma attack, Art remarried to a Filipino woman in her 20s, Airyn. The two met on video chat and had two kids together. The marriage also spawned a feud between Art and right-winged jackass Michael "Savage" Wiener when the fake talker called Airyn an "underage prostitute" on his show. Last year, Art and Airyn had their second child together, Alexander.

True, Art wasn't perfect. He had two children he was estranged from his first marriage and asked his listeners to imagine a white light when it was announced that Rush Limbaugh was going deaf (ultimately, it was due to pain meds). Also, despite voting for Obama, Bell announced his support for Drumpf in 2016. Nonetheless, I was a fan. Growing up in northern Michigan, I felt that he was the only sane talker on WTCM in its sea of Rush, Dr. Laura, Liddy and so forth. Hell, my grandfather even loved his show.

Also passing away was Don Bustany, who alongside Casey Kasem co-created American Top 40 in 1970. True, Don wasn't as famous as his partner, but he wrote and produced the show for many years. The two were friends in school in Detroit and reunited in the 60s in Los Angeles producing commercials. In recent years, Don hosted a show on Pacifica Radio that dealt with Arab relations. Bustany was 89. Kasem was 82 when he died in 2014.

Like C2CAMAT40 is now owned by Clear Channel, now iHeartMedia. Kasem hosted AT40 originally from its beginning in 1970 until 1988 over a contract dispute, which he started Casey's Top 40 with Westwood One. Kasem bought the show back from original owner ABC (Watermark) in 1998 three years after the original AT40 - then hosted by Shadoe Stevens -  was canceled. Since 2004, the show has been hosted by Ryan "Tinker Bell" Seacrest.

Nonetheless, both Art Bell and Don Bustany made radio better. I'll admit, I like listening to old AT40 shows on YouTube. The best part is that the music's been edited out so I don't have to sit though Mariah Carey, Michael Bolton or Whitney Houston to get to the meat of the shows. But just imagine what this world would be like without it.

But sadly, it now sucks.



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